Fri, Feb 19, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Capturing the faces of urban decay

A documentary photography instructor is organizing a photowalk to record life at Taipei’s Nanjichang neighborhood, which is facing demolition due to an urban renewal plan

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Participants snap away during the previous photowalk at Nanjichang community last month.

Photo courtesy of TC Lin

The last time TC Lin (林道明) tried to organize a photography walk around Zhongzheng District’s (中正) dilapidated Nanjichang (南機場) neighborhood, it snowed in Taipei.

A street and documentary photography instructor at Zhongzheng Community College, Lin is hoping for better weather tomorrow as he attempts to gather photographers — amateurs and professionals alike — to capture everyday life in this 52-year-old community of about 2,000 households before it disappears to the city’s urban renewal plan.

Once a “model community,” the neighborhood has deteriorated over the years and is now largely occupied by elderly living alone or low-income families. The renewal project has been in talks for many years, but progress has stalled due to a number of problems including resident eligibility and the debate on whether to keep the community’s elementary school.

“I talked to the borough warden and he wants to leave a recording of the people, objects and life in the community,” Lin says. “He invited photography students before, but they only took pretty pictures such as flowers and sunsets.”

That’s where Lin’s expertise comes in. He named the event “international photo walk” because he wants to encourage foreign photographers to join in.

“I think it would be interesting to include their point of view in this documentation of the community,” he says. “Their angle and style are often different from Taiwanese.”

The borough warden will give a presentation on the community and take the photographers on a tour — including places that are not usually accessible to the public. Lin says he will provide translation and answer questions for those who don’t understand Chinese, though he hopes that there are more bilingual people on the scene to assist him.

Event Notes

What: Nanjichang International Photowalk

When: Tomorrow at 10am

Where: Meet between 9:30am and 10am at Chungyi Elementary School (忠義國小), 17, Ln 307, Zhonghua Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市中華路二段307巷17號)

Admission: Free

On the Net:


Participants don’t need to be too self-conscious about intruding, as the borough warden has notified residents of the photography tour.

However, Lin says the number one key to documentary photography is respecting the subjects.

“You want to record the people and place because you like them and you respect them,” he says. “What mentality you use to photograph your subject is important because he or she will feel it too.”

Lin hopes to turn the results into an exhibition, set tentatively for late March or early April. He also wants to host a forum with exchanges between local and foreign photographers.

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